Summer is nearly here again and with it comes the regular battle with your children over the sun cream and trying to keep the hat on your toddler. It’s not a pointless farce though and the good habits of practicing sun protection should be instilled from a young age in childhood if they are to stick with them through their adolescence and into adult years. It’s a way of life that may well save them and you from suffering later on in life with skin cancer, a cancer that is constantly on the increase.
Miss Tania Cubison, a Consultant Plastic, Burn and Reconstructive surgeon at the McIndoe Surgical Centre in East Grinstead gives us her advice for sun protection for the whole family.
The harmful UV rays from the sun are no respecter of age, creed or colour and no-one is safe from the damage that can be caused. There are groups of people who are higher at risk but there isn’t any group at no risk! EVERYONE should be making sure that they do the following for their children and themselves:
• Wear hats! A simple way to protect your head and the back of your neck if you choose the hats with the neck flap. This is particularly important for young children and anyone with thinning or balding hair.
• Cover all exposed areas with your chosen sun cream – not just the torso and legs. Ears are often forgotten and often suffer as a result. A lipstick sun cream is great for adding protection to the tips of ears when you’re out and about. Scars from burns and other injuries should be totally protected at all times as the skin is much more sensitive here.
• Reapply sun cream frequently to children if they are swimming and being towel dried afterwards. The rubbing of the towel will rub away the protection and needs to be reapplied every time they come out of the water – even with “waterproof” creams.
• Stay out of the sun at its hottest period.
With so many creams on the market it is often difficult to choose which is the best for your family and Miss Cubison recommends a chalky cream if you are not paying for top of the range products. The less expensive products will still allow great protection if they are chalkier, but if you do want a cream that dissolves into the skin straight away then the most effective are those from the higher price range.
If you are going to be exposed to the sun it is always best to apply a factor 15+ before you head outside if you have no colour in your skin from previous sun exposure. As the time passes and you continue to apply this cream, your skin should start to tan and this is safe for you as it is the skins way of providing protection for you as well. You can then start to reduce your cream to a factor 8 as the days go on and this should provide you with a sun tan (if this is the look you are trying to achieve) without burning at all. In children however, we should always be applying a factor in the 20’s or 30’s with a common sense approach to reapplication.
If despite your best efforts you do find yourself or your children suffering from sun burn, the best thing to do is act immediately.
• Cover up and cool down!
• Get out of the sun, particularly children. Don’t hang around on the beach for ten more minutes – pack up as soon as you notice any pink or red colouring, or the child tells you they are sore.
• Don’t have hot baths or showers; opt for cool or cold to keep your skin temperature down.
• Commercial after sun lotions are great as well as a more cheaply available Calamine Lotion.
• However if the skin blisters, particularly in children, you really should go to the doctor to seek medical help.
Get children into a habit for life and help them understand why they need to take precautions. Why they have to wear that hat and why you need to apply this cream regularly to them. Lead by example and take care of yourself as well. Children respond well to this and if you give them some independence to apply their own cream, under your watchful eye, they will soon be doing everything as a matter of course and improving their own chances of being skin cancer free in the future.
For advice on what to look out for and for contact details for Miss Tania Cubison please visit www.mcindoesurgical.co.uk or phone 0800 917 4922
Stay safe in the sun!